I don’t mind toy clutter. I really don’t. Learning through play is my kids’ main job right now. However, I can’t stand clutter from toys that my kids aren’t even playing with. Even worse is when my kids try to see how many toys they can dump all over the floor and then they don’t even play with the mess.
Mama is fed up and last Saturday I took action. I decided to try toy rotation.
Toy rotation is the concept of only having a limited amount of toys available to your children, packing up the rest of their toys, and then rotating the toys on a regular basis. This idea works well for younger children who can easily get overwhelmed by endless play options. I’m excited to see how Grace (age 4) and Noah (age 1.5) react to our toy rotation.
Cutting Down on Clutter with Toy Rotation
This is our living room before I started sorting the toys. It doesn’t look like that much until you get a closer look at the chaos.
That shelf had some baskets that were awful clutter hot zones. Toys were thrown in there when we didn’t know where else to put them.
Plus there was a bigger basket on the floor that was another mess of forgotten toys.
Before I started sorting through the toy chaos, I gathered all the necessary supplies:
- 4 bins – Four isn’t the magic number, it is just how many empty bins I already had. Boxes would also work.
- trash bag
- yard sale box
- box for outgrown toys – I used this for all our baby toys that I wanted to put in storage.
- box for toys to pack away – This was for toys I didn’t want to include in the rotation, but I wasn’t ready to sell.
- bag for stuff that belongs somewhere else – I used this to gather together everything that needed to be put back in it’s proper home.
I warned my husband that things were going to get a lot worse before they got better. Boy was I right! It really was a bit of a disaster as I started to sort through all the toys.
A few months ago I went through the kids’ toys and boxed up some that they hadn’t been playing with. I brought all of those toys out from storage and started by sorting those first. The kids hadn’t been asking for these toys, so many of them went into the yard sale box. However, there were a few that I wanted to try out again. I set those aside to add to the rotation.
I organized the toys by type so I could see how many cars, balls, baby dolls, puzzles, etc. that we had. Then I began filling my bins.
I was strategic in how I divided the toys into the bins. I made sure each bin had:
- a car, truck, tractor, etc
- a stuffed animal or baby doll
- something that made noise
- a fisher price little people set
- age appropriate toys for Grace
- age appropriate toys for Noah
- a newer toy from Christmas
There is actually a bit of science behind this. There are several different types of play and each type helps kids learn a new skill (fine motor, gross motor, logic, role play, literacy, etc.). The bins aren’t perfectly even, but I’m confident that there is a good mix in each one.
There are several things that I didn’t put into the rotation because I want Grace and Noah to have full access to them all the time or they were too big.
- art supplies
- dress up clothes (which we moved to Grace’s bedroom)
- games (moved to Grace’s closet)
- a tea set
- the play kitchen & supplies
- the doll house
- a sit & ride car and tractor
- DVDs (I moved these out of the living room, but if the kids want to watch one they can pick from the entire collection.)
After all the bins were filled, I labeled them 1-4 and Nate took them to the basement. The yard sale toys were taken to the attic. The baby toys were stored away, along with the toys I wasn’t sure about getting rid of yet. The entire project took 2.5 hours.
We put all of the bins in the basement and only kept out a handful of toys. I was curious to see how Grace & Noah would react with so many of their toys packed away. We packed up the bins on Saturday and I didn’t pull out the first bin until Wednesday when Grace started requesting some of her toys that were packed up.
Grace and Noah waited upstairs while I brought up the first bin. I organized all the “new” toys and brought them downstairs for the big reveal. I kind of expected them to react like it was Christmas morning, but instead Grace was disappointed that I had brought out the wrong green ball. Eh. Kids.
In the last week since starting the toy rotation…
- Noah, who almost never plays with toys, is interested in the few we have out. He is initiating playing with things he has never done on his own before, like puzzles.
- We have gotten more creative by playing with things that aren’t toys: dried beans, dancing, art projects, and playing school.
- Every now and then Grace has requested a toy that is packed up. I’m wondering if she might end up frustrated when we start switching bins.
- The house has been 1,000 times easier and faster to clean up each day.
We have been experimenting with toy rotation for only a week. At this point I still don’t know if it truly works for our family. Will the kids miss toys that get packed up? Will they be more interested in each week’s new toys? Will it feel like a hassle to pack and unpack toys each week?
In a few months I will write an update to share how toy rotation works (or doesn’t work!) for our family. UPDATE: I wrote the update and you can now read Is Toy Rotation Worth The Effort?
Have you experimented in toy rotation? What was your experience like?
This post is being linked to the Decluttering Party hosted by A Slob Comes Clean.